View Full Version : Zelenka picture

Andrew Hinds
26-05-2007, 03:15 PM
Up to now, everyone has said that no one knows what Zelenka looked like. Thus I was intrigued to see a portrait on the front of the new French book about Zelenka (ISBN2 - 91 3575 - 78 - 1). I hope to get a copy in due course.It is an excellent example of the value of this website.
As the book is part of a series and others in the series have pictures of composers who I recognise (e.g. Mehul, Janacek and Sibelius), I assume that this is a picture researched sufficiently for the publishers to be sure that it genuinely tells us what Zelenka looked like. It shows him aged about 45 pointing to about 1725. This appears to be an exciting step forward in Zelenka research or is it?
Please could someone (e.g. someone with the book in which details may have been provided) try to confirm where the picture comes from and how sure we can be that it is authentic.
Andrew Hinds

26-05-2007, 06:55 PM

I was also intrigued to see the Zelenka portrait. I don't have a clue how this image was arrived at. From everything I know of him (my knowledge is limited)
there was never an image left to us. However, it has entered my mind that perhaps there may possibly be a portrait of one of his many siblings or perhaps his parents somewhere. I wonder if anyone has ever pursued that line of enquiry as (if fruitful) it may give us a better idea of his actual appearance.
Any thoughts.

28-05-2007, 10:10 AM
Don't be too hopeful. I'm certainly not. The picture of the man on the front of the book is a mirror-image scan of a small part of a monochrome picture of four musicians inside.

As you would expect, the man in question is a contrabassist. There is a full-length depiction of him standing with his instrument. The caption to the picture in the book is: "Réunion musicale par Balthazar van den Bossche (Zelenka présumé à droite). Photo DR".

The rather vague source given means that the reader has no idea in which museum the picture can be found. (There are the same vague sources throughout the book, including the "even Zelenka could have bad days" manuscript image on the Discover Zelenka website...)

Balthazar van den Bossche was a Flemish artist of about Zelenka's own age, born in 1681. He died at the age of 34 in 1715. This would mean that he died when Zelenka was about 36. At that time, Zelenka was just embarking on his career in Dresden (having been there for about 5 years).

From what I can see, there is not much (if any) justification in the text for assuming that this picture is that of Zelenka. It is interesting that the author chose a Flemish artist when he himself probably has Belgian connections (I may be wrong about this, but has he not been associated with Paul Dombrecht and Il Fondamento - itself a Flemish ensemble?)

Please, someone, make me eat my words! I will be very happy to accept this picture is there is a shred of proof.

Andrew Hinds
30-06-2007, 04:03 PM
I'm just back from a holiday that took in a visit to Dresden, Prague, Zelenka's birthplace village and walking in the High Tatras and Dolomites. It seems appalling that any reputable organisation should present a picture allegedly of Zelenka but actually not of him at all. From what you say, Alistair, it is a disgraceful, unacademic example of what no author should allow to happen (or perhaps it was out of the author's control).
During our holiday, we visited several wonderful museums where art of the 1720's was on display - for example an Esterhazay castle in Slovakia (Zwollen). I was searching for anything that might have been relevant for this site. It was all in vain.
In Prague, we found "the bookshop" and I bought editions of the orchestral works and some of the Lamentations. We also went into the Clementinum where Zelenka probably spent quite some time. Elsewhere, I found the Czech book on Zelenka. It contains significant amounts in English so that it is not completely useless for non Czech-speakers and the cost was only about Ten Euros. If a translation into English could be prepared in due course and made available from Prague, I guess that the price would be less prohibitive than the ground-breaking book (for which I am most grateful) from Oxford!
Andrew Hinds

Andrew Hinds
21-11-2007, 01:20 PM
I have just come upon what seems to be another wrong picture of Zelenka on http://www.hoasm.org/XIF/Zelenka.html The reference shows a short biography of Zelenka and a picture of a serious-looking man, a picture that is rather similar to one that I have seen elsewhere described as being of J.J. Fux.
So then I turned to the same organisation's biography of Fux on http://www.hoasm.org/XID/Fux.html which showed a gentleman with quite a long nose who seemed to be another person altogether (i.e. it was not simply a different portrait of Fux). Could this genuinely be Fux?

A check on the source material would be a good idea to unravel whether there is exciting news or that two simple errors have been made. Someone with a knowledge of fashion might be able to date the portraits accurately and assess whether the subjects' ages at the time match the date when those wigs would have been worn.

This conundrum took me to the Harrap's Historical Atlas of Music from 1968 with lots of pictures of Composers and, sure enough, there was a different portrait described as of Fux with the hint of a smile on his face described as "Anonymous painting; Vienna, Friends of Music".
Perhaps Fux and Zelenka (when in wigs with that central parting) were very similar in appearance but the probability is that I have yet to find that "missing" picture of Zelenka.
Andrew Hinds

21-11-2007, 05:32 PM
Hi Andrew,

This false picture was posted on the News page of the Discover Zelenka site a few months ago, as being of minor interest value and with explanation. (It preceded "the other" picture - of the contrabassist in the book in French). What you describe is a monochrome/mirror image copy of the quite famous colour painting of Fux. The picture had even found its way onto the website of Radio Prague, but they quickly removed it when they knew the truth!

All the best from Sweden.

21-09-2010, 11:50 PM

this partial reproduction of Balthazar van den Bossche's painting is highly interesting. Of course I wish the original painting to reappear one day !
May I point a few remarkable topics :
- the double-bass player is on the front : highly unusual. I am tempted to deduce that this man has more than a modest function of ripienist.
- his figure shows a strong and unusual personality, again (far from the usual neutral expressions found in such group portraits). Of course, this may just be my "préjugé" !
- he is surrounded by a violinist, a bassoonist, a musician holding a roll of music-paper, which identifies him without a doubt as a kapellmeister. An attempt to identify those colleagues of the double-bass player could be interesting.

- the bass player seems to be in his fourties. Details of clothing, instruments (the bassoon) do not go against a datation around 1725. (In these years Schmidt and Heinichen were sharing the function of Kappelmeister. Could this man with the roll of paper be one of them ?)
- the violinist is a bit younger. Many people I asked for their opinion agreed with me that there are things in common with Pisendel's portrait (at a later age). At this time, Pisendel, even if not yet Konzertmeister, had a very important function in the orchestra and in fact replaced Volumier as a leader for the music in italian style. His eight years difference with Zelenka could correspond to the age difference between the bass- player and the violinist depicted on the painting.
- the bassoonist is left-handed and play a special reversed bassoon. This is a very rare detail, which I noticed, only one other time, on a drawing of J.F.Wentzel "festtafel zum. 48. GeburtstagAugusts I." (1718) - therefore linked with Dresden orchestra.

Some ideas for a further investigation ?
Alexis Kossenko

24-09-2010, 04:51 PM
Hi Alexis,

I think Alistair has made a good case above for the doubts some of us have re the detail of this painting. Unless the french author shares the sources connecting Zelenka to this bass player, this is purely speculation.

But for fun, there is another excellent Bossche painting with more musicians and that bass player as well - or at least someone who looks like him. This can be found on www.bildindex.de – simply type Bossche - and it's the picture by the name of Tanzunterhaltung. He certainly was an excellent painter, no doubt about that.


25-09-2010, 11:44 PM
Thanks Johannes for the link.
Very nice to get to know this other painting - I am a collector of paintings with instruments and I didn't know that one.
I still find this coincidence with the left handed bassoonist really worth beeing thought over.

By the way I am ending a week in Dresden reading and studying Zelenka's manuscripts. not without emotion...